China’s WeRide unveils Robovan, its first electric, autonomous cargo van – TechCrunch

WeRide, a Chinese autonomous driving company, has revealed its first cargo van. This vessel will allow it to self-drive in the world of urban logistics. WeRide will collaborate with Jiangling Motors (China) and ZTO Express (China) to commercialize its first self driving van.
Tony Han, the founder and CEO of WeRide, Wenhui Jin (executive vice president of JMC) and Renqun Jin (vice president of ZTO), signed the deal Wednesday during WeRides' latest online press conference, dubbed "The Next". According to a company statement, ZTO will use the Robovans in their urban logistics service. TechCrunch was told by a spokesperson for WeRide that the Robovans would be built on JMC's fully redundant vehicle platform and combined with WeRides full stack software and hardware autonomous driving solutions.

WeRide has made a lot of money over the past year as it works towards commercialization. It raised over $600million from Series B andC rounds over five months, and currently stands at $3.3 billion. MoonX.AI, an autonomous trucking company based in Guangzhou, was acquired by WeRide in June. However, it has not yet committed to creating a commercial product for that market. WeRides is moving to diversify its autonomous portfolio by acquiring ride-hailing and autonomous busing services, urban logistics, and even a hint of self driving trucks.

Chinese search engine Baidus self driving unit focuses mainly on robotaxi and buses as of April this. Pony.AI, in addition to its robotaxis has also piloted last mile logistics. Pony.AI recently received the go-ahead for testing its trucks out there, but no buses. Waymo Via is able to tackle both trucking and last-mile logistics. However, Waymo has not yet made any announcements about self-driving buses. The GM-backed Cruise appears to be sticking with small cars and what they can offer, including delivery and rideshare.

WeRide claims its van has Level 4 autonomous capabilities. This is what the Society of Automotive Engineers describes as a vehicle that can take the wheel and not require human interaction. However, a human can still manually override the car. While Level 4 vehicles are limited in their ability to operate, they can still be used for ridesharing. However, delivery vehicles may also be able to operate within geofences.

WeRide has already tested its Robotaxi service for two years with the public. The company is confident that the Robovan can handle a wide range of traffic situations across ZTOs network. This network covers more than 99% of China's cities and counties according to ZTO.

WeRide spokeswoman said that the Robovan was already built and quietly tested in China. Although it is too early to give a timeline for when JMC and WeRide will start mass production, the spokesperson stated that pilot testing will continue at WeRide in one to three locations. This will ensure the vehicle's stability.

TechCrunch spoke with a spokesperson who stated that we will aim to become driverless in certain areas and increase our knowledge of urban logistics applications using Robovans. Robovan, like Robotaxi, operates in urban areas. Robovan has similar regulatory support to Robotaxi. China is catching up to self-driving technology and regulation is improving. In three to five years, you will be able to see the driverless Robovan.